Are ulcers the answer to all my problems? Success stories and advice needed!

I have a gorgeous, talented, “whole-package” of a horse who seems to either hate his job or showing (or both…) and I’m getting close to the end of my rope. :frowning: He is well-behaved and very well-schooled on the flat but when we start jumping he will typically buck during and/or after a jump, or just shut down and park several strides before we even get to a jump. At home I can typically school him through it (we might end up stopping once or twice during a lesson but can get through a few courses successfully and end on a good note) however at shows the problem gets much worse.

For awhile we treated it as just a behavioral issue, so I took myself out of the picture for a bit and just let a professional school/show him and he was still misbehaving. After this we decided that it has to be a pain issue, so we’ve x-rayed, flexed him, had chiropractors, acupuncturists and a variety of other body work done and we’re coming up with nothing. He’s 100% sound, flexes great, x-rays look good and nothing drastic stood out to anyone else.

Suddenly we realized, wait- we should definitely scope him so he has an appointment for this week. Could this just be ulcers? If he does have ulcers and we treat him is there a chance that magically he’ll decide that he likes his job again?

Please, please, please, say yes and give me some hope!!

Yes. You don’t even have to scope him. Give him 8 generic tagamet twice a day and see if it helps his attitude. If it does, go buy a bunch of ulcerguard and treat him for a month.

Saddle fit?

Saddle fit?

I think scoping is wise (finances permitting).

For some really tough cases it is helpful to have a baseline. I knew a really sour dispositioned horse who had horrible ulcers (worst the vet had seen in recent memory). After extended treatment the rescope showed that ulcers were still present. Without the baseline the vet and owner may have underestimated the scope of the issue.

I’ve seen some incredible before and afters in terms of disposition and work ethic. As someone with chronic GI issues, I can attest that stomach pain is truly crippling.

He’s lucky that he has an owner dedicated to finding the underlying issue at hand. Is anything changing at the shows? Could the lack of turnout be contributing to some body soreness or the stress of a warm up ring creating anxiety?

Saddle was custom fitted for him and I’ve had them come back out to make sure that his more developed top-line hasn’t affected anything negatively - all is well on that front.

I have MM insurance on him and paid extra for a no co-pay diagnostic policy so scoping him and any resulting ulcer treatment will be covered.

We actually have a paddock at most shows and I’m a very committed hand grazer, so he usually gets a decent amount of time out and about, even at shows. I also give robaxin to help with any muscle soreness.

He definitely seems more anxious at shows though - I can’t tell if it’s just the new environment or if there is a specific trigger I haven’t identified yet. Typically day 1 at the show he’s very balled up and goes around the warm up ring whinnying. Being up at the ring seems to make him the most anxious and it can be hard just to make him take a deep breath. Not sure if it’s relevant but he’s happy as a lark to walk around the show and trail ride, regardless of how long we’ve been there. He seems to be better anxiety-wise as the show progresses, however the actual behavioral problems seems to get worse- we might get around day 1 of the division but by classic day he doesn’t want to play… :cry:

Could be. I had the same feeling about one of my competition horses. Got ultra anxious jumping and worse at shows.

I just started him on a treatment of UlcerGard since it’s less then trucking to the clinic and scoping. I would have scoped if he didn’t have other gastrointestinal symptoms (loose stool and liquid expelled) that indicated ulcers. After only 7 days I saw a difference. His gastro symptoms that went away in three days. He still gets amped at shows, he competes in the AO jumpers, so that’s okay, but it’s a controllable energy and power. He now gets UlcerGard for the duration of a show with correct dosing of loading and phasing down. At home I keep him on a gastro supplement to support his hindgut, keep flora balanced and acid down. I can already see a difference if he has to spend a more than 24 hours inside, he starts getting some of his gastro problems back. He is, however, a cribber, which I think probably makes him a little more nervous/anxious to start.

Be sure to have his vision checked thoroughly. Have you tried any magnesium supplements for muscle soreness? Be aware that scoping for ulcers will only reveal gastric (stomach) ulcers. Hind gut ulcers are also a possibility. And some people feel there is a link between treating gastric ulcers with Ulcergard (or similar), and the subsequent development of hind gut ulcers. Speak to your vet about both types of ulcers.

Also, are you giving Robaxin under a vet’s direction?

You didn’t have a bone scan. Sounds like sacroiliac joint disease which will not show up with flexing. Read everything you can on sacroiliac joint disease. If you have an ex-racehorse, chances of sacroiliac damage is over 90%.

Why do people assume “misbehavior???” Horses are the MOST obsequious animals on the planet. If he won’t, he can’t. He’s been trying to tell you it hurts but you won’t listen.

Think of all the misdiagnosis that happens with humans -with the benefit of speech. Imagine not being able to point to the pain or talk to your doctor. Vets can NOT rule out pain because it is just too damned hard to pinpoint - even in humans. Studies (with humans) have shown that there is a poor correlation between X-rays and pain. A person with a lot of pain may have a relatively “good” X-ray and person with a “bad” X-Ray may have relatively little pain. Your horse is not painful on the flat. Then you jump. Your horse is telling you “that hurts!” What prevents you from listening?

Success story here. My horse wasn’t showing much for clinical signs except a bit more anxious when we’d trailer for our 2x weekly lessons. It seemed spooky situations were a bit magnified. We showed licensed shows monthly and I always gave him 1/4 tube UG for the show. In December I decided to scope as maintenance in the off season. He came back with Grade 4 ulcers. Treated him for 1 month on GG and he scoped clean so tapered down the GG over the next month. He now lives on 1/5 tube GG daily since we trailer so frequently and gets a tube 2 days before the show and each day during the show. His spookiness during lessons is much better and I feel he is more willing to use his back (we ride dressage.). Good luck!

[QUOTE=Weluvhaha;8667722]You didn’t have a bone scan. Sounds like sacroiliac joint disease which will not show up with flexing. Read everything you can on sacroiliac joint disease. If you have an ex-racehorse, chances of sacroiliac damage is over 90%.

Why do people assume “misbehavior???” Horses are the MOST obsequious animals on the planet. If he won’t, he can’t. He’s been trying to tell you it hurts but you won’t listen.

Think of all the misdiagnosis that happens with humans -with the benefit of speech. Imagine not being able to point to the pain or talk to your doctor. Vets can NOT rule out pain because it is just too damned hard to pinpoint - even in humans. Studies (with humans) have shown that there is a poor correlation between X-rays and pain. A person with a lot of pain may have a relatively “good” X-ray and person with a “bad” X-Ray may have relatively little pain. Your horse is not painful on the flat. Then you jump. Your horse is telling you “that hurts!” What prevents you from listening?[/QUOTE]

Yes, this. If you have no copay on diagnostics then recommend seeing about a bone scan (had a mare that just didn’t have the “oomph” anymore in her jump, but flexed fine, bone scanned her and she lit up her left hip - injected that once and she was back to herself. Vet surmises she did something in turnout, fell, slipped, something.)

Scoping is a great suggestion too and can probably be done in the same clinic time. We treated a gelding for ulcers when the formerly incredibly patient and pliable beginner friendly pony started to refuse to move forward, wring his tail, kick out a bit when asked for canter (leg behind girth was painful). Treated with Rantitidine 3x/day for 30 days per vet then scoped (did not have diagnostics insurance for this one so opted to treat first, then scope to ensure that there were no signs of irritation requiring further treatment).

Thanks for the success stories!

As far as why assume misbehavior first, I promise you that if this was a situation where we were both going great for a long period of time and then suddenly that changed, pain would have been the first thing we checked for.

Unfortunately with this horse it just wasn’t the case. When I bought him, he was a notoriously “tricky” one - generally very stubborn and opinionated with some large training gaps. Flat work was not easy with him in the beginning either, but after taking him back to the basics and filling in the holes he improved greatly.

The jumping issues seemed to fall into the same category and I’ll be the first to admit that I made a lot of excuses for him - maybe I got him there a little tight and he would stop, I didn’t have him balanced enough and he was dragging me on the forehand etc. and whenever I felt like it was my fault, he really didn’t get in trouble (I’m notoriously “too nice”). It wasn’t until I took a step back and decided that I didn’t want to be responsible for teaching my horse to stop and that it made more sense for just the pro to ride him for a little while that it became apparent that it wasn’t just me, and we started exploring the pain angle.

As far as a bone scan - I am definitely considering this option. The only thing I worry about is that several small things will show up on the bone scan and we will spend a lot of time chasing down things that aren’t actually causing him any issues. Has anyone ever had that experience? I admittedly am pretty inexperienced with bone scans in general.

Unfortunately ulcers weren’t the answer here. Vet was actually surprised how good his stomach looked :confused:

Bone scan tomorrow…

http://www.merckvetmanual.com/mvm/digestive_system/gastrointestinal_ulcers_in_large_animals/gastric_ulcers_in_horses.html?qt=equine%20gastric%20ulcers&alt=sh

Studies have not shown cimetidine to be effective.

If you’re going to throw anything at a horse to see if it might be ulcers, I would use ranitidine, not Tagamet (cimetidine).

From the same link:

Ranitidine (6.6 mg/kg, PO, tid) has been shown to be effective in healing gastric ulcers when horses were removed from training. Studies have not shown cimetidine to be effective. Omeprazole is the only medication approved by the FDA for treatment (4 mg/kg/day, PO) or prevention (1 mg/kg/day, PO) of gastric ulcers in horses, and it has been shown to allow gastric ulcers to heal in horses that continue their normal training.

OP - I see your update that you got him scoped and he is clean there. I’m glad - I’m a “I like to know for sure” type gal myself and when my horse had some ulcery symptoms I did get her scoped. Turns out she had grade 4 ulcers so I’m glad I got her scoped because even after 8 days of GastroGard she hadn’t improved AT ALL. If I had of relied on that as my “diagnosis” the poor horse would’ve gone on with ulcers because I would’ve thought it was something else.

Kissing spines? You said you have a custom saddle for him. Have you had an independent fitter out to assess the fit or just a brand rep? (Not saying it’s the case here, but I know of lots of people who were told by a rep that their saddles were perfect, but when seen by and independent fitter, they were truly causing pain.)